Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Did SpaceX’s Endeavour capsule have issues with its heat shield during its most recent return to Earth?

According to a May 23rd Space Explored article based on anonymous sources, the heat shield on SpaceX’s Endeavour capsule experienced “dangerously excessive wear upon reentry” because of a propellant leak.

Hypergolic propellant made its way into the Crew Dragon Endeavour’s heat shield, according to sources at SpaceX and NASA who spoke with Space Explored. This hypergolic propellant is used by the Crew Dragon in its Draco engines – hypergolic means that the two parts spontaneously combust upon contact. It is believed that this hypergolic propellant impacted the integrity of the heatshield, causing dangerously excessive wear upon reentry.

NASA however has now bluntly denied these claims:

“The data associated with Dragon’s recent crew reentries was normal — the system performed as designed without dispute. There has not been a hypergol leak during the return of a crewed Dragon mission nor any contamination with the heat shield causing excessive wear,” the NASA statement reads, in part.

“SpaceX and NASA perform a full engineering review of the heat shield’s thermal protection system following each return, including prior to the launch of the Crew-4 mission currently at the International Space Station,” the NASA statement continues. “The heat shield composite structure (structure below the tile) was re-flown per normal planning and refurbishment processes. The thermal protection system on the primary heat shield for Crew-4 was new, as it has been for all human spaceflight missions.”

Such a flat out denial by NASA strongly suggests that the anonymous sources relied on by Space Explored are not reliable, and got their facts wrong. While NASA will often try to hide or spin any issues to make them seem less worrisome, it has almost never denied the existence of a serious problem, when it was revealed that such a problem had occurred.

I know to say this sounds paranoid, but this story also suggests this claim might be part of the growing effort within the federal bureaucracy and the press to attack SpaceX, because of its new irrational hostility to Elon Musk because he supports achievement and free speech.

At the same time, SpaceX has recently had to discard and replace a Dragon heat shield planned for a future mission because of discovered “manufacturing defect” during normal preflight testing. This confirmed story, combined with the unconfirmed and questionable story above, suggests SpaceX needs to take a closer look at the Dragon heat shield design.

Astroscale to deorbit OneWeb satellites, funded by the European Space Agency

Capitalism in space: Astroscale has obtained OneWeb as a major customer for its system to safely deorbit its defunct satellites, with the work partly funded by the European Space Agency (ESA). From the ESA press release:

There are currently two options for removing end-of-life OneWeb satellites from their orbits at the end of their predicted five to six years of service. Each has been allocated enough fuel to be able to actively deorbit at the end of its useful lifetime. But, in case of failure, each has also been built with either a magnetic or a grappling fixture [designed by Astroscale], so that a servicer spacecraft could collect and actively deorbit the satellite.

The servicer spacecraft that Astroscale will build and test is called “ELSA-M” and is planned for launch in 2024. The servicer spacecraft will be the first “space sweeper” capable of removing multiple defunct satellites from their orbits in a single mission.

Following this demonstration, Astroscale will offer a commercial service for clients that operate satellite constellations in low Earth orbit, providing the technology and capability to make in-orbit servicing part of routine satellite operations by 2030.

Apparently, the ESA will pay Astroscale a little less than $16 million to install its grappling fixture on OneWeb’s satellites as well as build and fly the test ELSA-M mission. Once that flight proves the technology by removing several satellites, OneWeb will be expected to pay for Astroscale’s services, as will any other satellite customers.

This deal gives Astroscale a significant leg up on any other junk removal companies, as it getting its grappling fixture in space on many satellites. If that fixture should become standard, it will allow Astroscale to become the dominate satellite junk removal company, at least for the near future.

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The best method to donate or subscribe is by using Zelle through your internet bank account, since it charges no fees to you or I. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). What you donate is what I get.

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If these electronic payment methods don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

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Cortaro, AZ 85652

Engineers rethinking Ingenuity operations to keep it alive through the winter

The engineering team operating the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars have now determined that the cold oncoming winter temperatures on Mars are causing its systems to shut down during the night — at the edge of their designed temperature limits — and then reboot each morning, thus resetting its clock to the wrong time.

The result has been that the helicopter’s future is now definitely threatened. To address the cold winter temperatures and possibly keep Ingenuity alive, the engineers have come up with the following plan. First, they have focused on downloading from the helicopter all the remaining data still on-board, in case it shuts down permanently.

After all critical logs are transferred, the team will proceed with a recommissioning phase during which we will reestablish Ingenuity’s flight-readiness given our ongoing overnight cold-cycling. Like during the technology demonstration phase, we will perform a high-speed spin before proceeding to flight. Should Ingenuity receive a clean bill of health, we would be ready to execute a short sortie to the southwest in Flight 29. This flight will improve our radio link for approximately the next four to six months while Perseverance samples at the river delta.

In the meantime, the Ingenuity flight software team will be preparing a series of upgrades to enable advanced navigation features. These new capabilities will help Ingenuity ascend the river delta and continue its missions as a forward scout for Perseverance past winter.

All this effort will carry much greater risk, especially because Ingenuity is now operating far beyond its original planned capabilities, and the worst and coldest winter temperatures are yet to come. For the next three months or so the amount of sunlight available will be insufficient to power it as planned, and thus it will face a possibility of permanent failure almost every day. That 29th flight is thus likely critical to survival.

First test flight of Momentus’s orbital tug has issues

Capitalism in space: According to a short press release from the company, tirst test flight of Momentus’s orbital tug — launched on a Falcon 9 on May 25th, has communications issues.

We have established two-way contact with the Vigoride Orbital Transfer Vehicle, and as is often the case with a new spacecraft, have had some initial anomalies. We are using an unplanned frequency as we work through this and are applying for a Special Temporary Authority (STA) with the FCC to address that in order to help command the vehicle back to nominal configuration. Our engineering and operations team is working to address the anomalies.

No further details have so far been released.

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 6 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. After I sell one more, I will be raising the price substantially. Thus, if you want to get an autographed copy of this rare collector's item for only $100, plus $5 shipping, now is the time to buy. Once I sell one more book and only have five copies left, the price goes up to $150 (plus shipping for the next two.


To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $105 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!


Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

SLS next dress rehearsal countdown scheduled for June 19th

NASA has now scheduled the next dress rehearsal countdown for its SLS rocket for around June 19th, with the rocket beginning its trip to the launch site on June 6th.

It appears the issues that prevented the completion of the dress rehearsal in April have all been addressed:

While inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), teams completed several major objectives, including assessing the liquid hydrogen system leak at the tail service mast umbilical, replacing the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) gaseous helium system check valve and support hardware, and modifying the ICPS umbilical purge boots. The addition of hazardous gas detectors above the upper stage allows for additional visibility into any potential leaks during cryogenic operations.

Other than the rollout on June 6th, all future dates remain flexible, depending on what happens step-by-step.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

A high mountain inside Valles Marineris

A high mountain inside Valles Marineris
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here, was taken on January 4, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows the flat top of a mountain inside Candor Chasma, one of the side canyons of the solar system’s largest canyon, Valles Marineris.

The image was taken when the sun was about 32 degrees above the horizon, to the west, and thus apparently low enough to put the flat top mostly in shadow.

What is most spectacular about this photo is the sense of scale it portrays once you know the overall context. Note the many layered slope to the west. That slope will continue downward far beyond the left edge of this image, dropping for dozens of miles and about 13,000 feet. The overview map below makes this clearer.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Teacher threatened with loss of license for expressing an opinion

Marissa Darlingh: Her free speech not allowed in Wisconsin
Marissa Darlingh at the April 23rd rally: Her free speech forbidden by Wisconsin

They’re coming for you next: A Wisconsin teacher, Marissa Darlingh, has been threatened with loss of her teaching license by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for speaking publicly — on her own time and as a private citizen — at a feminist rally on April 23, 2022 against the modern queer movement to introduce perverse sex instruction into elementary schools.

During that rally, Ms. Darlingh publicly expressed that she “oppose[s] gender ideology” in elementary schools and that young children should not be “exposed to the harms of gender identity ideology” or given “unfettered access to hormones—wrong-sex hormones—and surgery.” She argued passionately that she “exist[s] in this world to serve children” and “to protect children,” and does not support social or medical transition of young children. In the passion of the moment, Ms. Darlingh at one point said “[expleteive] transgenderism,” referring to the “gender identity ideology” that she believes harms children.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) issued Ms. Darlingh a letter on April 29, informing her that the agency opened an investigation to determine whether to revoke her educator license for “immoral conduct” at the April rally. The letter cites Darlingh’s use of profane language as well as her statements “oppos[ing] gender identity ideology from entering [her] school building” and her statements that she “do[es] not believe children should have access to hormones or surgery” as examples of her “immoral conduct.”

You can view the DPI letter here [pdf]. In threatening to take away Darlingh’s right to teach, it also gave her the option to end the public investigation if she would simply “surrender her license.” To do so DPI kindly included an agreement for her to sign.

In other words, “You sure have a nice looking resume. It sure would be a shame if something happened to ruin it.”

Darlingh not only did not surrender her license, she enlisted legal help from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), which immediately sent a letter to DPI [pdf] telling it to back off or face a lawsuit for violating Darlingh’s first amendment rights. The letter also took the offensive, closing with this demand:
» Read more

Part 2 of Elon Musk’s most recent tour of Starbase

Looking up from the bottom of the tower
Looking up from the bottom of the tower

Looking down from the top of the tower
Looking down from the top of the tower

Tim Dodd of Everyday Astronaut has now posted part two of his long and most recent tour of Starbase at Boca Chica with Elon Musk. This section is 33 minutes long, and takes us to the top of the new orbital launch tower that SpaceX will use to launch Starship and Superheavy, as well as eventually catch Superheavy upon its return.

Part 1 can be viewed here.

The two images to the right are screen captures from today’s tour.

I have embedded Part 2 below. It has the following interesting take-aways:

  • Musk: “At SpaceX, we specialize in converting the impossible into late.”
  • Musk and his engineers spent several minutes describing in detail how the tower’s chopsticks will work in conjunction with Superheavy as it comes down and the chopsticks grab it.
  • Musk also provided some details about the Starlink-2 satellites, explaining that it is impractical to launch them on Falcon 9, and thus Starship must become operational to fly them.
  • The tour not only stopped near the top of the tower to get a close look at the attachment points for the chopsticks, it went to the tower’s top, at 469 feet in the air, 106 feet taller than the Saturn-5 rocket.
  • In discussing how the economy is not zero sum, Musk revealed why he is at heart a conservative, and is slowly finding this out. That he still leaves out that forgotten word that makes this all possible, freedom, shows his journey is not quite complete.
  • Musk also added his thoughts on the importance of making human civilization multi-planetary. For him, it is really a question of survival.

» Read more

Spaceflight’s Sherpa-AC tug successfully deploys satellites


Capitalism in space: Spaceflight’s first orbital tug, dubbed Sherpa-AC and launched on SpaceX’s May 25th smallsat Falcon 9 mission, has successfully deployed its satellites as planned.

Spaceflight successfully delivered all five customer payloads, including two hosted payloads on the Sherpa OTV [Orbital Transfer Vehicle, or tug], to their desired orbital destinations.

The Transporter 5 mission marks Spaceflight’s 51st launch, its sixth in 2022, and the first launch of the Sherpa-AC OTV model. Sherpa-AC, named for its “Attitude Control” capabilities, augments Spaceflight’s base free-flying Sherpa with key functionality including a flight computer, attitude knowledge and control, and more, making it ideal for servicing hosted payloads on orbit.

Organizations on Spaceflight’s Transporter 5 mission include Xona Space’s Huginn mission, NearSpace Launch Inc.’s TROOP-3, MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Agile Micro Sat, and Missile Defense Agency’s CNCE Block 2.

The picture above, reduced to post here, shows Sherpa-AC as launched. According to Spaceflight’s webpage, Sherpa-AC can act either as the service module for a smallsat, providing power, attitude control, and communications, or as a tug, bringing the cubesat to its desired orbit and then deploying it. On this flight three cubesats were deployed, and two remain attached, using Sherpa-AC as their service module.

Update on Relativity’s operations and first launch attempt

Link here. The article provides a nice overview of the company, its rocket, and the status of both. Key quote:

Terran 1, much like SpaceX’s Falcon family, is designed around affordability. The company says a dedicated mission on Terran 1 should cost around $12 million and is capable of taking 2,750 pounds of payload to low-Earth orbit. That number drops to about 2,000 pounds when going to sun-synchronous orbit.

Though the 110-foot Terran 1 won’t be reusable and will be expended into the Atlantic Ocean, it should inform the company’s future development of the much larger, 216-foot Terran R rocket. That vehicle will be reusable and is expected to directly compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Terran 1’s demonstration mission, appropriately labeled “Good Luck, Have Fun,” is slated to carry no customer payload. The company appears to be on track for its goal of flying before the year is out.

Terran-1 will thus be limited to the smallsat market that is presently held by Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, and Astra. It is bigger, however, and if successful will be able to put more or larger smallsats into orbit, and do so at a cheaper price.

Stratolaunch unveils first Talon-A test vehicle

The pylon and Talon test vehicle attached to Roc
Click for original image.

Capitalism in space: Stratolaunch yesterday released the first pictures of its first Talon-A test vehicle, dubbed TA-0, to be used to test in-flight the pylon on the company’s giant Roc airplane that the Talon-A will be attached to.

The photo to the right, reduced, enhanced, and annotated to post here, shows the test vehicle attached to the pylon which hangs from the bottom of Roc’s wing. From the press release:

The pylon, which was introduced during Roc’s fifth test flight on May 4, will be used to carry and release Talon-A hypersonic vehicles. The hardware is comprised of a mini-wing and adapter that is constructed with aluminum and carbon fiber skins. It weighs approximately 8,000 pounds and occupies 14 feet of Roc’s 95-foot center wingspan, allowing for adequate space between the aircraft’s dual fuselages for safe vehicle release and launch. The custom structure also features a winch system that will load Talon-A vehicles onto the platform from the ground, expediting launch preparation and reducing the need for ground support.

Although this first version of Talon-A will not be powered in flight, its future iterations will be rocket-powered, autonomous, reusable testbeds carrying customizable payloads at speeds above Mach 5. TA-0 will continue functional and integration testing in the coming months, culminating in a captive carry and vehicle flight later this year. After completing TA-0 separation testing, the company will transition to flying its first hypersonic test vehicle, TA-1. The team has also started fabrication of a third vehicle, TA-2, the first fully reusable hypersonic test vehicle.

The development and initial testing of Talon-A is partly funded from a contract with the Air Force. If successful, the Air Force will likely move on to purchasing actual hypersonic test flights.

NASA blesses Starliner as ready for manned missions

Capitalism in space: In the post flight press conference on May 25th, NASA officials gave their official endorsement of Boeing’s manned capsule Starliner, making it clear they are ready to approve it for manned missions.

Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, was to the point:

“Putting the vehicle through its paces on this flight is really the only way to prepare us for the crewed flight test,” Stich said. “Once we work through all the data, we’ll be ready to fly crew on this vehicle.”

The “data” however includes two failed orbital thrusters on the capsule’s service module, and two failed attitude control thrusters on the capsule itself. While the capsule’s thrusters can be taken apart for analysis, because the service module is not recovered, burning up over the ocean, Boeing will have to try to figure out the cause of its thruster failures from the data and experimentation with a not-yet flown service module.

Even so, it appears NASA will not require Boeing to do another unmanned test flight. The capsule proved during the unmanned demo flight that it has more than ample redundancy in these thrusters, should some fail on a manned flight.

The plan right now is to get that next manned flight off by the end of the year, though it could slip into ’23 should it become difficult to pin down and fix the thruster issues.

Another grand galaxy imaged by Hubble

NGC 3631
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, reduced to post here, was released today and is one in what has become a steady string of recent and quite spectacular galaxy images produced by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope. From the caption:

This image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope features the Grand Design Spiral, NGC 3631, located some 53 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major. The “arms” of grand design spirals appear to wind around and into the galaxy’s nucleus.

Close inspection of NGC 3631’s grand spiral arms reveals dark dust lanes and bright star-forming regions along the inner part of the spiral arms. Star formation in spirals is similar to a traffic jam on the interstate. Like cars on the highway, slower moving matter in the spiral’s disk creates a bottleneck, concentrating star-forming gas and dust along the inner part of their spiral arms. This traffic jam of matter can get so dense that it gravitationally collapses, creating new stars (here seen in bright blue-white).

This spiral follows the classic shape of these whirlpool galaxies. The Milky Way, though also a spiral, is now thought to be a barred spiral, whereby the galaxy’s whirlpool shape is distorted by a large straight bar of stars crossing its center.

Scientists also released today a second photo from Hubble of a different spiral galaxy, which you can check out here.

Today’s blacklisted American: Churches vandalized by leftists for their beliefs

Today's modern witch hunt
What the left really wants: To burn Christians at the stake.

Genocide is coming to America: Four churches in Olympia, Washington, were vandalized during the May 21st weekend by Puget Sound Anarchists, a pro-abortion group that makes believe it is anti-authoritarian but is willing to commit violence against anyone who dares to express an opinion it does not like.

From an anonymous post on May 22nd on their own website:

A Mormon church, Calvary church, Harbor Church, and St. Michael’s Catholic church all received facelifts in the early hours of Sunday morning. We dumped red paint over the entryways and left messages of “If abortions aren’t safe then neither are you,” “Abort the church,” and “God loves abortion.”

…While a little graffiti may be a small gesture in the war against patriarchal religious control, we wish to highlight that it’s easy and fun to attack. Our enemies are vulnerable and easy to find. [emphasis mine]

In another post from July 2021, this group proudly takes credit for destroying and damaging a garage full of police cars, adding

Be bold! Sabotage is fun!

» Read more

Astronomers: Shut down satellite companies so we don’t have to adapt!

The Hubble Space Telescope
Space-based astronomy, a concept apparently alien to astronomers

In an article published today in Nature, the astronomy community continued its crybaby complaining of the last three years about the interference posed to their ground-based telescopes by the tens of thousands of small satellites scheduled for launch in the next few years.

These quotes typify the apparent attitude of astronomers:

“This is an unsustainable trajectory,” says Meredith Rawls, an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle. “At the moment, our science is fine. But at what point will we miss a discovery?”

…“It’s really quite horrifying,” says Samantha Lawler, an astronomer at the University of Regina in Canada.

…The growing threat of satellite constellations adds to other degradations of the night sky such as light pollution, says Karlie Noon, a PhD candidate in astronomy and an Indigeneous research associate at Australian National University in Canberra. “In the same way that our lands were colonized, our skies are now being colonized,” she says. “And this isn’t just Indigenous people.” She points out that companies have launched satellites without necessarily consulting the scientific community. [emphasis mine]

Oh the horror. Scientists weren’t consulted! The nerve of these companies!

In response, astronomers have decided their only solution is to enlist the UN to shut down these satellite companies.
» Read more

Starliner successfully lands in New Mexico

Starliner on its way down

Capitalism in space: Boeing today successfully completed the safe landing of Starliner from an unmanned demo mission to ISS, making it the only American capsule to touchdown on the ground using parachutes. This was the second Starliner to do so, though the first demo mission was cut short just after reaching orbit.

The screen capture to the right comes from the live stream, about two minutes before touchdown. You can see the airbags deployed under the capsule, which inflated just after the heat shield was jettisoned.

The capsule landed only 0.3 miles from its target, an excellent result. Crews are now heading to the capsule at White Sands to carefully check it out, to make sure no hazardous fuel leaks pose a threat to those ground crews.

I must complement Boeing (and NASA) on providing very professional coverage. It has often been painful in recent years to watch any NASA broadcast because of the breathless propaganda the agency has somehow thought it needed to do. In this case however the announcers and the broadcast were calm, thoughtful, and very informative, focused not on emotion but on reporting what was actually happening. Kudos to Boeing!
» Read more

SpaceX launches 59 smallsats and tugs into orbit

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched 59 smallsats and orbital tugs using its Falcon 9 rocket.

The first stage successfully completed its eighth flight, landing at Cape Canaveral. As I write this the upper stage is in the several hour-plus process of deploying the payloads.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

22 SpaceX
16 China
7 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 31 to 16 in the national rankings, and the entire rest of the world combined 31 to 26.

Chinese expert calls for China to find ways to destroy Starlink constellation

A Chinese communications expert at its Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications has written a paper calling for China’s military to develop ways in which it can to destroy SpaceX’s Starlink constellation.

According to the South China Morning Post, lead author Ren Yuanzhen and colleagues advocated in Modern Defence Technology not only for China to develop anti-satellite capabilities, but also to have a surveillance system that could monitor and track all satellites in Starlink’s constellation.

“A combination of soft and hard kill methods should be adopted to make some Starlink satellites lose their functions and destroy the constellation’s operating system,” the Chinese boffins reportedly said, estimating that data transmission speeds of stealth fighter jets and US military drones could increase by a factor of 100 through a Musk machine connection.

I am sure China (as well as every other superpower — including the U.S. military) is already working on developing methods for either jamming or destroying Starlink. Doing either however is difficult because of the constellation’s nature: many small satellites all of which provide redundancy and are easily replaced. Even more depressing for these power-hungry government entities is the fact that Starlink is not the only constellation now in orbit, with many others soon to follow.

For example, consider the contracts that the NRO announced today with three different surveillance satellite companies, all of which have their own constellations. Getting rid of one is hard. All three is likely impossible.

Pushback: Navy loses in attempt to fire officer who refused COVID shots

Total victory for Navy Lt Billy Moseley
Navy Lt Billy Moseley

Bring a gun to a knife fight: When faced with dismissal on a charge of misconduct because he refused to get a COVID shot, Navy Lieutenant Billy Moseley took his case before a Navy administrative separation board, and won a unanimous victory.

Anyone who has been in the Navy for at least six years is entitled to call for a separation board if threatened with dismissal. The board is made up of three Navy officers, and its decision is binding.

Younts [Moseley’s lawyer] argued at the board hearing that the mandate for the experimental COVID vaccines was not a lawful order since the military has not made fully FDA-approved versions of the vaccines available to military members.

The military defense attorney told Just the News that the attorneys for the Navy agreed with him that there are no FDA-approved vaccines available, only interchangeable vaccines. Younts added that if there are no FDA-approved vaccines available, then the president would have to authorize the experimental shots that are currently available, which hasn’t happened.

On Friday, the board voted 3-0 that Moseley’s failure to follow the COVID vaccine order did not count as misconduct and that he should remain in the Navy. Younts said that the board members weren’t convinced that the vaccine order was lawful.

According to the press release [pdf] from Younts,
» Read more

Axiom signs deal with Italy to add an Italian module to its commercial space station

Capitalism in space: The commercial company Axiom today announced an agreement with the Italian government to begin design work on an Italian module that will eventually be added to its commercial space station, set to launch in ’24 as an addition to ISS that will eventually separate and fly independently.

The language of the press release is couched in a lot of vague statements, but this paragraph is the most revealing:

While the [agreement] is exploratory in nature, areas of cooperation outlined in the agreement include mutual definition of potential user requirements as well as technological solutions and operational concepts for an Italian module that could later be developed and integrated into the Axiom Space Station. The project could take the form of a public-private framework with the governance and business models developed over time. Other areas of cooperation include collaborative development and implementation of research supporting space exploration and technology, including advanced materials, pharmaceuticals, on-orbit manufacturing, space security, aerospace medicine, simulation and robotics, and other areas of mutual interest as determined by the two parties, as well as training and mission operations.

The deal will likely lead to Italy paying Axiom to build the module as well as provide that country support when it begins using that module for research and commercial development.

Nor is this Axiom’s only deal with other countries. Both Hungary and the UAE have signed agreements to fly in some manner with Axiom.

NRO awards major satellite contracts to BlackSky, Maxar, and Planet

Capitalism in space: The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) today announced major satellite contracts worth billions of dollars with three different commercial satellite constellations, BlackSky, Maxar, and Planet, to provide it high resolution reconnaissance imagery over the next decade.

You can also read BlackSky’s press release of the contract award here.

The contracts are part of an NRO’s program, dubbed Electro-Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL), to shift from building its own reconnaissance satellites to buying the services from the private sector.

EOCL will support the mission needs of NRO’s half-million intelligence, defense, and federal civil agency users over the next decade. It will also help ensure long-term, continued support for the U.S. commercial remote sensing industry. EOCL is effective as of of May 22, 2022 with a five-year base and multiple one-year options with additional growth through 2032.

The five year contract with one year options through 2032 applies to all three satellite companies, and guarantees that all three will require extensive launch capabilities to keep their satellite constellations operating. The rising demand for rockets, both large and small, will thus continue.

Watch Starliner’s return to Earth

The astronauts on ISS closed the hatch yesterday on Boeing’s Starliner manned capsule in preparation for its return to Earth today, with a planned landing at White Sands, New Mexico, at 6:49 pm (Eastern).

I have embedded NASA’s live stream below. The undocking at 2:36 pm (Eastern), with the live stream beginning at 2:30 pm (Eastern). After the capsule separates and ends joint operations with ISS the live stream will break off until 5:45 pm (Eastern), when it will resume to cover the landing.
» Read more

Martian ridge sticking up out of a lava flood plain

Martian ridge sticking up out of a lava flood plain
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on August 9, 2020 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and was featured today as this camera’s picture of the day. As today’s caption notes:

This observation focuses a ridge that is standing above the old lava surface of the floor of Echus Chasma. What is this ridge doing here? Is it preexisting material surrounded by lava? Is it material pushed up at a restraining bend? If the ridge is not lava, it may have colorful flanks.

The overview map below shows that this location in Echus Chasma is even more interesting, as some scientists believe it once also held a large lake.
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Pushback: Total victory for The Federalist against attempt by Biden’s Labor Board to silence it

Total victory for Ben Domenech and The Federalist
Ben Domenech at The Federalist

Another past blacklisted American has come away with a triumph for freedom! In April 2022 I reported how the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) under the Biden administration and working with two leftist lawyers was attempting to silence the conservative news outlet The Federalist because of a very lame Twitter joke sent out by its publisher, Ben Domenech.

In his tweet, Domenech had joked that if any of his six employees dared considering unionizing “I swear I’ll send you back to the salt mine.” The NRLB claimed absurdly this was an example of “unfair labor practice.”

Domenech had hired the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) to defend him. At first it worked out a settlement whereby all charges would be dropped if Domenech would simply delete his tweet.

Domenech refused. As he said in explaining this decision to fight:
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